COVID deaths in English care homes are likely “thousands” higher than the official figures, health providers claim.
Officials say the Care Quality Commission (CQC) figure of 39,017 deaths does not include those who perished before April 10 last year – when the virus was running rampant.
Instead, they say “thousands of elderly residents” are likely to have died during a nine-day window between the CQC signing off on a policy to allow Covid-positive patients to be discharged from hospitals into care homes and when counting began.
Death records in the nine days leading up to April 10 – almost three weeks after Boris Johnson announced the first nationwide lockdown – suggest around 4,000 patients may have died with Covid.
One manager said the regulator “failed every one of its own standards” and described the CQC’s Covid policy as “a death warrant”.
“They were neglecting what they were supposed to be doing for a living,” they said.
“The CQC's remit is to protect patients and residents. It is not to get into bed with the Government to engineer bed vacancies.”
‘ONE OF THE BIGGEST TRAGEDIES’
The CQC declared more than 39,000 people died from the virus in English care homes in official figures published for this first time in July.
However, data from those nine days before April 10 reveals 7,775 deaths occurred within this period – 4,190 higher than the same period the year before.
Jeremy Hunt, the former Health Minister and chair of an all-powerful Commons health select committee set to hear from the CQC described the discharing of Covid patients into care homes as “one of the biggest tragedies last year”.
“Both the NHS and its regulators need to explain why we were less stringent than countries like Germany that did not allow untested patients into care homes unless they were fully quarantined.”
On April 2, 2020, the CQC greenlighted a policy drafted by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) that allowed infected patients to be transferred from hospitals into care homes “based on an understanding that certain elements were in place”.
It also stated testing wasn’t necessary for asymptomatic patients.
Julia Jones, a dementia rights activist, said it was “sickening” to see so many deaths in the first ten days of April last year.
She added: “The CQC has failed abysmally to live up to its Fundamental Standard of Person-Centred Care, never more so than in this shameful episode.”
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Kate Terroni, the chief inspector of adult social care at the CQC, said care homes were able to “refuse admission” if patients tested positive, had symptoms or if premises lacked PPE and staff.
Care homes also saw a surge in deaths during March 2020 but couldn’t always declare Covid-19 as the cause.
The CQC had to redesign its notification system to allow providers to indicate Covid-19 as the confirmed of suspected, but this didn’t happen until April 10.
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